Before I moved to South Africa (and aside from the years spent at uni) I have always lived in London. I grew up in Ealing before moving to St. John’s Wood, then Marylebone and then Barnes. I’ve just realised that for anyone who knows London this probably makes me sound very posh but trust me, I’m not!
A popular topic these days (particularly amongst Daily Mail readers it seems) is to lament the volume of immigration into the UK. But it is precisely this ethnic diversity that makes me love London so much. I love the mix of races and cultures and the colour and interest this brings to the city. And of course this diversity is nowhere more apparent than in London’s thriving food scene. Aside from the ubiquitous Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Indian restaurants, I have eaten Vietnamese, Sri-Lankan, Polish, Ethiopian and many more besides. But it’s not just the restaurants. I love the unassuming corner shops that, depending on the part of London you’re in, might offer up some sweet and sticky Turkish baklava, a fragrant Alphonso mango from India, or a tin of Jamaican gungo peas.
So when Fiona from London Unattached and The Face of New World Appliances announced that the next stop on the Best of British challenge tour was London, a whole host of exotic dishes sprung to mind. But in the end (and after consulting with the OH), I decided that the dish that epitomised London for me was something a lot less unusual. My entry into this month’s Best of British challenge is the humble burger.
Now this isn’t just any old burger. This, my friends, is an Idle Hour burger. To explain, the Idle Hour is a pub in Barnes which IMHO is the best pub EVER. It was just around the corner from where we used to live and we used to go there pretty much every Friday night. It was a teeny place with a handful of tables and a broom cupboard for a kitchen yet despite this, it offered a menu that was “simple, seasonal and sensational.” (Their words but I couldn’t have put it better.) Given the size of the kitchen, the food sometimes took an age to come but that was OK. Another glass of the excellent house red or another pint of Red Stripe and all the stresses of a difficult week ebbed away. Whilst the menu changed regularly, there was one dish that was a permanent fixture– the mouth-watering organic steak mince burger.
The Idle Hour burger is probably the best burger I have ever tasted. Juicy and succulent and topped with sticky red onions and slices of mature cheddar, I’ve tried to recreate it for my Best of British entry. Whilst my recipe makes a good burger, I’ll admit defeat and say my version is a rather poor relation. I have tried umpteen times to make a red onion marmalade that tastes as good as shop bought but have long since given up and reverted to buying it. If anyone has an amazing red onion marmalade recipe, please would you share it with me? I did, however, make my own burger buns according to this excellent and very easy recipe here. And adding oyster sauce to the burger patties is a little tip I picked up from Masterchef’s John Torode. It’s not detectable in the finished dish but adds a touch of meaty umami.
The ‘Idle Hour’ Burger
(Makes 4 burgers)
- 500g free range or organic rib eye steak
- 2 slices white bread
- a little milk
- 25g oyster sauce
- 1 egg yolk
- black pepper
- burger buns (I used this recipe here – use half the quantity to make 4 large buns)
- mature cheddar, sliced
- red onion marmalade
- lettuce and fresh tomatoes (optional)
1. Using a very sharp knife, chop the steak into fine strips, then into chunks and then “mince” coarsely using some cheffy knife action. (Alternatively if you have a proper mincer, use that.) Whizz the bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs then soak the breadcrumbs in a little milk. Squeeze the milk from the breadcrumbs and mix the crumbs into the mince along with the oyster sauce, egg yolk and a very generous helping of black pepper. Shape into burger patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat and cook the burgers for about 3 minutes each side (they will still be pink in the middle). Serve in burger buns with slices of cheddar, a good dollop of red onion marmalade and some salad if you like.